I was for IRV before IRV was cool
When I got elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 2014, I made lists of things I wanted to accomplish as a State Representative. One of the lists was of issues I considered more peripheral, but fun issues to try to address. There were 3 items on this list: legalize fireworks, eliminate time change & eliminate election runoffs through the use of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV).
I discovered quickly that several of my colleagues were already working on legalizing fireworks so I supported their existing efforts.
Every colleague I spoke with about eliminating “springing forward” & “falling back” with the dreaded time change thought it was a bad idea and not worth the effort. I waited until my third term to introduce this idea & found it to be extremely popular. I was able to pass legislation which would eliminate time change in Georgia & move us to year round Daylight Saving Time should Congress grant us the authority to do so.
When I brought up the idea of IRV to fellow legislators, I either received blank stares meaning they had idea no idea what I was talking about, or they wondered if this was another one of my bad ideas. I could not find much support for IRV on either side of the aisle back in 2015 when I began my service. As a proven staunch conservative, I view IRV as a nonpartisan issue that puts the needs & desires of voters first.
I have supported IRV for a long time for a lot of reasons:
1. Because the “runoff” occurs instantly, it eliminates the need for voters to return to the polls for another runoff. This reduces voter fatigue created by so many elections & protects Georgians from being bombarded with political commercials and flyers through the holiday season.
2. It saves taxpayers millions of dollars & lots of time! It is estimated that the Georgia Senate runoff in 2021 cost the state around $75 million.
3. It adds legitimacy to 3rd party candidates. I won’t be “throwing my vote away” by voting for the candidate I really support because I can then list another candidate as my second choice. If my first choice doesn’t make the instant runoff, then my vote for my second choice is counted. Voters who back 3rd party candidates should be huge supporters of IRV.
4. It makes for more policy-centered campaigning. Negative campaigning would be discouraged because a candidate needs to be a voter’s second choice if they aren’t their first.
5. Fewer voters are willing to vote a second time in a traditional runoff. IRV allows the runoff to occur immediately so more voters are included in the outcome.
By September of 2020, I had discovered a few colleagues on both sides of the aisle who supported IRV so I decided to draw up bipartisan legislation which would do the following:
1. IRV for overseas & military voters. This feature would allow us to shorten the 9 week runoff to 4 weeks. This would be a big step in the right direction. As someone who had endured a 9 week runoff as a candidate, I understood clearly about voter fatigue & the desire to at least shorten the runoff if we were unable to eliminate it. 3 high profile democrats & 3 leading republicans co-sponsored this legislation.
2. IRV for municipalities. This would give local governments the option of using IRV if they wanted to in local elections, saving them enormous amounts of time & money.
3. IRV for the Presidential Election. There is no runoff for the presidential election so IRV would make it so one candidate would receive over 50% of the vote. The current system allows a presidential candidate to win all our electors with less than half of the vote.
4. IRV for all general elections. This would eliminate runoffs in the fall election completely so that the holidays would not be marred by voters being bludgeoned with constant campaign commercials & mailers.
All of this was done prior to the Georgia Senate runoff of 2021. I was not motivated by this runoff to introduce this legislation. It was already done. The messy runoff just served as confirmation that I was on the right track.
My bill introducing IRV for military & overseas voters was incorporated into The Election Integrity Act (SB202). I have received so much gratitude from voters when they found out that the runoff was shortened to 4 weeks instead of the painful 9 week runoffs we had to endure previously.
Unfortunately, none of the other bills received any serious consideration.
Now is the time for the General Assembly of Georgia to act in bipartisan fashion and rid our state of these ridiculous runoffs. Instant Runoff Voting is the best way to get this done!